The resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard from the role of Chair of the IICSA has prompted many conspiracy theories and questions. There can be no doubt this is a low point for the work of the IICSA which now needs to rise phoenix like from the flames of criticism in the way thinking back four years London 2012 did after the spectre of overspend and lack of timely progress.
Some victims and survivors, including some of those with core participant status, have suggested this is just another example of Establishment cover up. Some in the media have suggested that Goddard was forced to resign, citing inconsistencies in the correspondence with the Home Secretary as evidence of this. It has also been suggested that there are issues with aspects of some of the New Zealand judiciary. There have been voices from many angles calling for this to be seen as an opportunity to change the direction of the Inquiry or to answer perceived wrongs. Interestingly one real challenge for the Inquiry seems to be how to deal with and respond to individuals accused of abuse. Hence, there have been many concerns raised about the investigation in connection with Lord Janner and how the Inquiry can even consider making findings of fact when he is dead and the allegations have never been tested in any court. At the same time there have been concerns raised that Bishop Peter Ball, having pleaded guilty to many of the charges he faced, then be granted funding to be a core participant. There are also concerns about what documentation he will be entitled to see, which leads to the very challenging issue raised in all of the hearings last month about redaction and jigsaw identification.
The one point of consensus in all the commentary following the resignation is that we now need a swift decision about a new Chair and the continuing work of the Inquiry. Keith Vaz MP as Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee has written to both the Home Secretary and Dame Goddard asking for more information about the reasons for the resignation and inviting them both to appear at the next Select Committee meeting on 7th September. He has also said that this is an opportunity to look at the whole shape of the Inquiry including its purpose, logistics and cost.
It would seem sensible, if possible, for a new Chair to be identified before then so they can also attend that meeting. Until there is a new Chair, the issue of scope and progress cannot be considered, otherwise, whoever takes on the role, will face even more of a challenge of dealing with a perceived failing Inquiry, which they have not helped shape, than Dame Goddard did. Whoever is appointed needs to be able to make a contribution to any changes. Having been appointed they will need to turn their attention to the redaction guidance and the jigsaw identification as until that is resolved substantial progress cannot be made as there can be no sharing of evidence between core participants until there is agreement on this issue. Without that there can be no hearings or reports.
A prompt update on costs, plans and timetables should then be provided in the hope that conspiracy theories can be stemmed and questions answered. We can then hopefully make progress, as is possible (see the work of the Australian Royal Commission), and most importantly we can leave a balanced legacy of safety for children.
On Friday 5 August I appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast this morning, commenting on the resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard. You can access the interview on BBC iPlayer here at 0.36mins – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07m75d5#play
Paula Jefferson, Partner